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Unable to complete a mix

Phryq

AlbertMcKay.com
So, there's a piece I finished writing a few months ago. All of the midi is 'recorded', samples chosen etc...

and I've just been unable to make it sound the way I want. Reverb / balance / EQ etc.

It's driving me insane. I compress too much, it sounds dead, not enough, jarring...

Could the problem be shitty earphones? I have bose Quiet Comfort noise canceling, nice for music but not for mixing.

Or is the problem something else? I've tried working on other songs and coming back, and even tried sending it to someone else. Other mixes were even worse than my own...

AlbertMcKay.com
 

Jimmy Hellfire

Senior Member
It could be all sorts of things. It's impossible for anyone to give an informed opinion or useful hints based on such vague information. I think it might be a good idea to provide an audio example so people can have a listen, chime in with their opinions and perhaps some common theme might pop up on what could be done better or differently.
 

kfirpr

Active Member
my guess it's the earphones, I had exactly the same problem and solve it by two steps:
1. better room acoustics
2. knowing what sound I want to achieve (also referencing)
 

RiffWraith

Senior Member
All of the replies above are good ones.

Could the problem be shitty earphones?

Sure could. Great mixes done by great engineers were not done on earphones - let alone shitty ones. They were done on good monitors in good acoustical environments. The first key to a good mix is arrangement - as Karel pointed out - but in terms of the actual mixing process, the next key is to work on good monitors in a good acoustical environment. You may be using your phones to eliminate a poor room, but that's not the way to go.

The other thing you need to keep in mind - and many, many people just don't get this - mixing is something that takes years and years to get good at. And not just a few - many. And not by doing one or two mixes a week. I am not sure how long you have been at this, but it seems like not too long? You need to allow yourself time to develop your ears and your brain, and your all around mixing skill. And the only way to develop your skill, is by doing. And doing, and doing...

Cheers.
 

Mundano

Active Member
if you have to mix with headphones/earphones be sure to control this:
  • Have a reference mix (depending of your track's style) of an other artist, like e.g. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) where you want to reach the sound of different instrument within this example mix, more or less
  • If your sound is near this, is good to go
  • Control your headphones gain, not too loud please, and have pauses, maybe if ur in a hurry then make the volume lesser to work extended time
  • burn to CD to control over Hi-Fi, car, etc
  • less is more. Don't overfill the tracks with 1000 plugins. Eq, Comp, Fx, ready
just my 2c
 
OP
Phryq

Phryq

AlbertMcKay.com
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  • #8
But I don't think my music is so comparable with another reference.

http://albertmckay.com/orchestral.html

It's not really like other orchestral. I don't use horns, and I often like things balanced unconventionally. E.g. a solo oboe melody over quiet horns.

I really need to complete everything with just cans. I don't have speakers, rooms, or even a car. I'm a traveling teacher who lives in other peoples houses.
 

mc_deli

n trepreneur
Noise cancelling headphones are a really bad idea for mixing - depending on the technology - as they will cut and boost frequencies depending on the ambient noise. You are never going to be able to judge mixes because the headphones are changing what you are listening to, possibly even on consecutive playbacks in the same room.

As said, get yourself some decent cans and reference tracks. I have HD650 for this but there are plenty of options.
 

dgburns

Leg Ahh toe / Shpeig haw too
So, there's a piece I finished writing a few months ago. All of the midi is 'recorded', samples chosen etc...

and I've just been unable to make it sound the way I want. Reverb / balance / EQ etc.

It's driving me insane. I compress too much, it sounds dead, not enough, jarring...

Could the problem be shitty earphones? I have bose Quiet Comfort noise canceling, nice for music but not for mixing.

Or is the problem something else? I've tried working on other songs and coming back, and even tried sending it to someone else. Other mixes were even worse than my own...

AlbertMcKay.com

As per George Massenburg
"A mix is never finished,it's only abandoned"

too many things to "control".You can't control sound,really,you can,however-control your perspective.Change that and you automatically change the way you do/view the music.

...offered humbly from a long time suffering fellow practitioner.
 
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Phryq

Phryq

AlbertMcKay.com
Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
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  • #11
I totally agree. I always feel I must eventually abandon-ship.

And I will definitely get a set of cans. I'm thinking of the AKG 702
 
Ive wondered over the years if mixing is so complex and years of practice to improve is it maybe better to leave the mixing to the pros? As in send off professionaly? These days there are plenty of engineers and studios offering their services and at very reasonable prices?
 

dannymc

Senior Member
Ive wondered over the years if mixing is so complex and years of practice to improve is it maybe better to leave the mixing to the pros? As in send off professionaly? These days there are plenty of engineers and studios offering their services and at very reasonable prices?

or you could just learn the same as what these pro's learned and do it yourself for free?my guess is that these pro's weren't born pro's, they had to start somewhere.

Danny
 
Last edited:

re-peat

Senior Member
Albert,

I listened to the 6 pieces on your website and I’m of the opinion that you’ll never going to get these pieces to sound ‘good’. And neither will a pro engineer.

The problem isn’t so much the sound — the sound itself is actually not all that bad (I’ve heard much worse in pieces posted here on the forum) — the problem, in my opinion, is that you program and balance your instruments in ways which are so far removed from what a conditioned ear (which is what we’re all equipped with, I’m afraid) expects them to sound and behave like, that you’ve ended up with a near-continuous conflict between, on the one hand, the sampled instruments built-in aspiration towards realism (as solo instruments and as an ensemble), and, on the other hand, your complete disregard of that.

See, the moment you use a sampled bassoon, you create all kinds of expectations — expectations based on what people assume a bassoon to sound and behave like —, on top of the assumptions which a sampled bassoon itself already brings to the music. If you ignore all those expectations/assumptions and make the instrument behave in a way that is completely alien to its assumed identity, or if you balance it among other instruments in an equally unrealistic fashion, there’s no avoiding that the results will sound ‘jarring’. And ‘jarring’ is indeed how all your pieces sound. (I really like plenty of your ideas though.)

And that ‘jarring’ has got nothing to do with the EQ’s or the compression or the reverbs or whatever, it’s just that you treat your instruments in a manner they were never designed nor equipped to be treated as. Your approach tends to bring out the artificiality of the sounds and tools which you use, rather than hide it behind the veil of illusion which is so vital to the digestibility of a mock-up.

Two solutions: either you take this approach much further, until all remaining connections with reality are severed — which would be my choice, as it’ll give you a creative freedom, unshackled by mock-reality, which your music would very much welcome, I believe — or, you start again from scratch but this time observing much more how the instruments, which you use in simulated form, actually sound, behave and blend like in reality. Or, in other words: try to make a much more conventional and believable mock-up.

Either solution will solve a lot of what you, at the moment, consider to be mixing issues.

_
 

afterlight82

Active Member
"Mix issues" that are awkwardly persistent are, almost without exception, compositional/orchestration/arrangement/structural (any combination of that).

Ask yourself - do you have control of your material...maybe your material has control of you? This is frequently true of most (maybe all) of us. There's a philosophical question to chew on...part of the constant battle we face is to control our material.

Successful composition isn't just about your base material, but what you build with it. The ear craves organization, and even more so, adores when it thinks it has understood that organization - only to have that expectation confounded. If you don't have organization in the first place though, the ear struggles to hone in what is important, both linearly in terms of rhythm and time, and vertically in terms of frequency. And then mixing becomes hard. Which is why mix issues are almost never "mix" issues.
 

jononotbono

Luke Johnson
Albert,

I listened to the 6 pieces on your website and I’m of the opinion that you’ll never going to get these pieces to sound ‘good’. And neither will a pro engineer.

The problem isn’t so much the sound — the sound itself is actually not all that bad (I’ve heard much worse in pieces posted here on the forum) — the problem, in my opinion, is that you program and balance your instruments in ways which are so far removed from what a conditioned ear (which is what we’re all equipped with, I’m afraid) expects them to sound and behave like, that you’ve ended up with a near-continuous conflict between, on the one hand, the sampled instruments built-in aspiration towards realism (as solo instruments and as an ensemble), and, on the other hand, your complete disregard of that.

See, the moment you use a sampled bassoon, you create all kinds of expectations — expectations based on what people assume a bassoon to sound and behave like —, on top of the assumptions which a sampled bassoon itself already brings to the music. If you ignore all those expectations/assumptions and make the instrument behave in a way that is completely alien to its assumed identity, or if you balance it among other instruments in an equally unrealistic fashion, there’s no avoiding that the results will sound ‘jarring’. And ‘jarring’ is indeed how all your pieces sound. (I really like plenty of your ideas though.)

And that ‘jarring’ has got nothing to do with the EQ’s or the compression or the reverbs or whatever, it’s just that you treat your instruments in a manner they were never designed nor equipped to be treated as. Your approach tends to bring out the artificiality of the sounds and tools which you use, rather than hide it behind the veil of illusion which is so vital to the digestibility of a mock-up.

Two solutions: either you take this approach much further, until all remaining connections with reality are severed — which would be my choice, as it’ll give you a creative freedom, unshackled by mock-reality, which your music would very much welcome, I believe — or, you start again from scratch but this time observing much more how the instruments, which you use in simulated form, actually sound, behave and blend like in reality. Or, in other words: try to make a much more conventional and believable mock-up.

Either solution will solve a lot of what you, at the moment, consider to be mixing issues.

_

This is brilliant advice that I am going to apply to my Music. Thank you.
 
OP
Phryq

Phryq

AlbertMcKay.com
Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
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  • #18
Albert,

I listened to the 6 pieces on your website and I’m of the opinion that you’ll never going to get these pieces to sound ‘good’. And neither will a pro engineer.

The problem isn’t so much the sound — the sound itself is actually not all that bad (I’ve heard much worse in pieces posted here on the forum) — the problem, in my opinion, is that you program and balance your instruments in ways which are so far removed from what a conditioned ear (which is what we’re all equipped with, I’m afraid) expects them to sound and behave like, that you’ve ended up with a near-continuous conflict between, on the one hand, the sampled instruments built-in aspiration towards realism (as solo instruments and as an ensemble), and, on the other hand, your complete disregard of that.

See, the moment you use a sampled bassoon, you create all kinds of expectations — expectations based on what people assume a bassoon to sound and behave like —, on top of the assumptions which a sampled bassoon itself already brings to the music. If you ignore all those expectations/assumptions and make the instrument behave in a way that is completely alien to its assumed identity, or if you balance it among other instruments in an equally unrealistic fashion, there’s no avoiding that the results will sound ‘jarring’. And ‘jarring’ is indeed how all your pieces sound. (I really like plenty of your ideas though.)

And that ‘jarring’ has got nothing to do with the EQ’s or the compression or the reverbs or whatever, it’s just that you treat your instruments in a manner they were never designed nor equipped to be treated as. Your approach tends to bring out the artificiality of the sounds and tools which you use, rather than hide it behind the veil of illusion which is so vital to the digestibility of a mock-up.

Two solutions: either you take this approach much further, until all remaining connections with reality are severed — which would be my choice, as it’ll give you a creative freedom, unshackled by mock-reality, which your music would very much welcome, I believe — or, you start again from scratch but this time observing much more how the instruments, which you use in simulated form, actually sound, behave and blend like in reality. Or, in other words: try to make a much more conventional and believable mock-up.

Either solution will solve a lot of what you, at the moment, consider to be mixing issues.

_

Thanks re-peat. Yes, you're right. I'm thinking to go both ways, and maybe do some hybrid synth music.

I love the way a well-sampled bassoon sounds... but I don't like the limitations of physical-reality.
 
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